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Manufacturing: Be there while staying here

One of the challenges all of today’s manufacturing companies face is global operations that require increased attention from a diverse and oftentimes shrinking or aging workforce. Manufacturers and machine builders are faced with challenges every day in terms of getting the right engineer or expert from her office to the plant floor half the globe away. If the plant is down or operating inefficiently there are huge cost impacts to the manufacturer, huge support cost to the machine builder, and just tremendous impact to the value chain.

At Cisco we have shaved hundreds of millions of expense dollars from our budget by using a variety of collaboration tools. These start with Unified Communications but they include tools like WebEx, TelePresence, Video and Active Collaboration Rooms. These all add on to the existing capabilities of Borderless Networks. Many of our manufacturing customers already use these tools and are successfully stripping cost from their Operations every day.

Imagine the power of walking into a conference room, pressing a button on the phone and instantly seeing your assembly operations in China and Germany, being able to share data with the operations people from both plants with your staff in Michigan. Finishing that meeting you can capture the action items via your interactive whiteboard, set up follow-up calls via WebEx (all without printing, by the way! A Green feature!). Then you can get a cup of coffee and head back to your office and handle the call from Brazil about the packaging machine that wraps half the skid, then shuts down – and you do that from your phone, finding the design engineer that is at a customer site in Australia. And you did this all without having to fly anywhere, and you had visual contact with everyone. Read More »

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Machine Builder Business Models, Sustainability and Innovation

So my wife and I recently took a two week vacation to Alaska – without computers or anything but camera’s and our ever important smartphones. I didn’t realize that Marie Hattar, our Segment VP was going to write a blog about the importance of vacations and productivity – see that here. Imagine that, I overachieved via a vacation!

At any rate, back to the vacation – we left on Sunday so Saturday was reserved for clothes washing and packing. Great plan until the motor on the washing machine froze. We ended up Saturday night finishing the wash at her father’s house. Then after the trip (that was fabulous by the way. Everyone needs to take a cruise through the Inside Passage!) we ended up having the repair service visit to confirm the motor was shot (new motor cost more than the washer was worth, so conclusion: buy a new one) and using his washer/dryer for another week. That meant bundling up two plus weeks of wash, carrying it to his house, doing the wash for a few hours, etc.

I was reminded of the challenges a manufacturing company would have due to an unexpected machine breakdown. You have to isolate the problem, get appropriate repairs, possibly upgrade the machine, possibly line up alternate manufacturing capability, etc. I’ve blogged before about the needs for continuing MRO schedules and the importance of properly servicing your manufacturing machines and lines. But how do you prepare for a critical machine that suddenly breaks? Can you rapidly sub out the work? Can you quickly get the machine replaced? What if the newer machine doesn’t fit in the line directly? Read More »

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Back to the future: the Open Networking Foundation

Along with several key industry players we announced the formation of and participation in ONF, the Open Networking Foundation with the purpose of promoting a new approach to networking, called software defined networking, open standards based of course, and implicitly open source since all compute loads (or clouds) need and want both, as we are continuously reminded.

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Delving in Cisco Data Center Fabric, Part 1

Following my last blog post , I have gotten a number of questions on how we specifically define “fabric” so I thought I’d dig into that a bit more with this post.  So, the primarily point is that our definition of fabric it built around a specific set of features and capabilities. It is not tied to specific products or topology. Again, we think it’s important that our customers have choice and not have an arbitrary architecture foisted upon them.

At its most basic level, a fabric is a highly available, high performance shared infrastructure built with integrated, intelligent compute, storage and network nodes that can be rapidly and simply organized around the requirements of a given workload.

We see this fabric as having six specific characteristics:

    • Open -- based on open standards
    • Integrated -- breaks down traditional silos with a more holistic approach
    • Flexible -- allows customers architectural flexibility and choice
    • Scalability -- easily grows and adapts as the data center evolves
    • Resilient -- delivers bullet-proof uptime
    • Secure -- provides security and policy compliance

Read More »

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The Yang of Open Standards, the Yin of Open Source

Every time I think about the relationship between Open Standards and Open Source I am reminded of a fascinating talk by Paul Saltman, a biochemist from Caltech, invited to speak to a Chinese forum years ago, about national food policy for China, later published in Caltech’s Engineering & Science, titled The Yang of Nutrition…The Yin of Food.

I am not a nutritionist, or biochemist, or expert on food -- though in more than one occasion I’ve been known to venture in the art - but I do know a little about open standards and open source - let’s just say enough to be sentient of the wholeness and synergy in which these opposites attract and coexist, perhaps not unlike The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

By the very nature of our industry, open standards are not just important, they are indispensable, the foundation upon which every internetworking protocol is based, the pre-requisite of interoperability, so naturally we take open standards seriously, the yang side, as it were.  But what is often overlooked, just as the case with the yin of food in Saltman’s parallel, is the yin of open source, some of which is in fact the implementation, the other side, or yin as it were, of these open standards and more, with things like jabber or tigerstripe just to name a few.  We’d like to tell you more about what we’re doing with these and other open projects, soon to be covered in this blog.

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